Chautauqua confirmed his standing as the best sprinter in Australia with a breathtaking victory in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes on Friday night.
Despite sitting last as they went around the turn, jockey Tommy Berry didn’t panic, picking through a gap and letting the horse unleash his devastating finishing burst to claim the $1 million Moonee Valley sprint.
The Team Hawkes-trained Chautauqua, the $2.45 favourite, was a class above, storming away to beat Srikandi ($9) by two lengths, while Rebel Dane ($13) was in third.
The popular Buffering ($7.50) led early but copped pressure throughout and battled on to finish fifth, while Terravista ($6) was stuck in traffic and never saw daylight, coming seventh.
But there was no doubt about the winner, who was just too good.
“It was a super effort,” co-trainer Wayne Hawkes said.
“He was certainly made to earn it but that is what it is all about when you’re the ‘hot pot’, and at the 700 (metre-mark) the quaddie punters probably felt like they were in a bit of strife but when they came to the corner he just pushed out and went away.
“He’ll go to Flemington (next for the Darley Classic), then we’ll see how he pulls up. We’re taking it one race at a time. Then, you never know, we might go and meet the Queen (at Royal Ascot).
“He’s the best sprinter I’ve ever touched, that’s for sure.”
It was Berry’s first Group 1 winner in Victoria and he celebrated by saluting to the stars in memory of his fallen twin Nathan, who passed away from a rare illness last year.
The star Sydney hoop revealed he got in touch with Chautauqua’s regular jockey Dwayne Dunn for some hints on how to ride the grey.
“It’s unbelievable – my first Group 1 in Melbourne, the only place I hadn’t got one,” Berry said.
“I gave Dwayne a call before I got on the flight today and he gave me more information than I needed to know, and he told me about the horse inside-out.
“I’ve obviously ridden him before but never in Melbourne. Thank you, Dwayne, I appreciate it so much.”
Berry was initially concerned about his position, but stuck to his instructions.
“I didn’t expect to be that far back but John said on the way out ‘I don’t want you on the fence, and if you are just ride patient’,” he said.
“John has been trying to hammer into my head that if something goes wrong, follow into the race and I got out at the right time. I can’t thank the Hawkes team enough.
“I’ve been riding a lot for them in the last twelve months and I’m sure there are a lot of other jockeys who deserved (the ride) too.”